Friday, August 3, 2012

The Iranian HIIT Solution: Three 200m Sprint Sessions per Week Double Insulin Sensitivity & Normalize Leptin Levels

Image 1 (iransportspress): Maryam Tousi Iran's first female Iranian athlete to compete in the IAAF World Championships in South Korea in 2011 was certainly not one of the 30 overweight study participants.
You will certainly remember the HIIT training video study, I mentioned in last Saturday's installment of the On Short Notice series, right (cf. "Insanity vs. TurboFire")? Now, despite the fact that at least some women seem to prefer hopping around like crazy with a bunch of other crazy "bunnies" in a gym and I will always stick to the recommendation that you will have to pick a type of exercise you actually enjoy doing in order not to fall off the wagon, when the initial success begins to slow down, a recently published study from the Islamic Azad University in Tehran, Iran, clearly suggest that "cheerleading" is not the only way and probably not even the most effective way to HIIT your metabolic syndrome with full intensity.

The Iranian success formula: 12 weeks, constant progression, 1,600 - 3,200m, thrice weekly

Sohaily Shahram and her colleagues from the Department of Physical Education and Sport Science at the University of Teheran handpicked  30 female overweight volunteer students from the university campus, who did not have any confounding health issues aside from their weight and ensuing metabolic problems and randomly assigned 15 of them to the HIIT exercise group.
Figure 1: Outline of progressive HIIT protocol that was used in the Shahram study (based on Shahram. 2012)
While the subjects in the control group did do nothing but continue on their regular, lazy lifestyle, the young women in the HIIT group performed the above HIIT sprint workout (cf figure 1) three times per week, with a work to rest ratio of 1:3 and a 10min warm-up (incl. light stretching) + 5 min cool down.

Would you really prefer taking medication and keeping your insulin sensitivity from further deteriorating over 21-42min of sprinting per week to increase your insulin sensitivity by 100%?

If we assume for simplicity that the women needed ~45s for the 200m (average for 8th graders is ~25-27s, but we don't want rise the bar too high, do we ;-) this would yield a total workout time (including warm up and cool-down) of 39-63min, increasing from week 1 to week 12, respectively.
Figure 2: BMI, body fat percentage, VO2Max (marker for cardiorespiratory fitness), insulin, glucose and leptin levels, as well as insulin resistance index  (calculated via HOMA model) after 12-weeks on the HIIT protocol from figure 1; data expressed relative to baseline (calculated based on Sharam. 2012)
If you take a look at the results in figure 2, you will obviously see right away that those two to three hours on the track per week had an immensely beneficial effect on the overall metabolic health of the subjects, who were, just as their sedentary peers advised to follow their "regular eating habits" over the course of the 12-week intervention.

Obesity and the Westernization of the East

Image 2: According to Esteghamati et al. the risk to become obese has increased from 13.6% to 22.3% for normal weight and from 32.2% to 36.3% from 1999 - 2007, alone (Esteghamati.2010). Yet despite the rise in overall and childhood obesity, Iran is still the country with the slimmest children (14%) in the Middle East, where Bahrain is the inglorious  leader with childhood obesity rates of 35% among the girls and 21% among the boys (Mirmiran. 2010)
Against that background it is not unusual and by no means lamentable that their weight stabilized (which probably is what not so educated physical culturists as you are would immediately have complained about). Rather than making a fuss about the minor loss of body weight (-2.29kg on average), the women should rather celebrate that they lost a total of 2% body fat (equiv. to a -9% reduction in body fat percentage, see figure 2) and primed their bodies to actually be able and willing to lose fat in the future by
  • improving their aerobic workout capacity by 26% and thus lying the foundation for more intense fat loss workouts on a future diet
  • improving their glucose metabolism and reducing their insulin resistance by >50% and thus being able to fuel their future workouts with the necessary amount of carbohydrates without totally negating their weight loss efforts while dieting
The one thing that would be missing now was a ~20% reduction in caloric intake and a switch away from energetically dense convenient and fast food, which has lead to a drastic incline in obesity in Iran over the last two decades (see caption of image 2) and towards a healthier more "oriental diet". The latter is, just like the infamous "Mediterranean diet", which has countless times being mislabeled as a "low fat diet", particularly rich in MUFAs (oils with 70%+ MUFA content: olive oil, macadamia oil, avocado oil) - and as you are going to learn in tomorrow's installment of On Short Notice these monounsaturated fatty acids have only recently been shown to be just as, if not more effective in keeping diet induced weight gain in check via their epigenetic effects on the expression of the growth hormone stimulating "hunger hormone" ghrelin as fish oils (Saidpour. 2012).
A word of caution The 16 x 200m variety of these HIIT workouts is nothing you'd perform after a strength workout. These workouts are about as taxing a leg workout and will require their own training day. If your current routine has three ore more strength days, don't do more than one of the long HIIT workouts per week. Depending on your goals you can incorporate max. 8x200m sprints after shorter workouts, or do HIIT (8x200m) in the AM and weights in the PM. Check out the Step By Step to Your Own Workout Guide to learn how set up your own workout routine and how to combine weights, HIIT & LISS.
Implications: Aside from the protocol, itself, which is unquestionably equally (I'd say even more) suitable for advanced trainees (women and men), the Shahram study has two major take home messages:
  • Change and challenge have more in common than the initial three letters - If you don't challenge your body you cannot expect change to happen; just like your muscles won't grow if you always train with the same weight, HIIT workouts at least when are they supposed to increase your cardiorespiratory fitness need progression (the HRMax programing will automatize that, as you will simply have to work out harder to get your heart rate up, when your fitness has improved)
  • Workouts prime your metabolism for fat loss, diets pull the trigger - If you have been lying on the couch for the last two or three years, your body will change even without any dietary intervention, but to really transform your physique you must make appropriate changes to your diet.
I guess, you could say that it's funny how many scientists (and certain science writers), usually with a bias to one or the other, still propagate that diet and exercise would be different means to one and the same end, if their messages would not lead millions of "dieters" and "1h-per-day-on-the-treadmill-walkers" into disaster ... you see, on their own, both can in fact become means to the same disastrous end.

Image 3: Leave the cheerleading to the boys, ladies and HIIT it hard! Fast paced and glycolytic sports will reduce / minimize your need to "diet" and help to avoid the dreaded YoYo Effect
Can you lose weight by simply eating less? Yes, you can. Can you lose weight by working out like a mad(wo-)man? Yes you can! ... but did you even notice that the word "lose" was in each of this questions? You don't want to join the Biggest Losers, do you? So lets start with a better question, then!

Can you improve your health, extend your life and look like a cover model? Yes, you can! All you got to do is build your success on both, not just one pillar of physical culture: Diet and exercise, exercise and diet!

So what are you waiting for? All you'll need is your daily dose of SuppVersity news and a pair of running shoes!

And eventually, even the shoes are obsolete. If you sprint on the beach you will get a greater training effect, anyways: Binnie et al. report 4% faster 3-km running times, when subjects performed their conditioning workouts on the beach (Binnie. 2012)
  • Binnie MJ, Peeling P, Pinnington H, Landers G, Dawson B. Effect of training surface on acute physiological responses following interval training. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jun 26.
  • Esteghamati A, Khalilzadeh O, Mohammad K, Meysamie A, Rashidi A, Kamgar M, Abbasi M, Asgari F, Haghazali M. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. June 2010, 8(3): 209-213. 
  • Mirmiran P, Sherafat-Kazemzadeh R, Jalali-Farahani S, Azizi F. Childhood obesity in the Middle East: a review. East Mediterr Health J. 2010 Sep;16(9):1009-17. Review. 
  • Saidpour A, Kimiagar M, Zahediasl S, Ghasemi A, Vafa M, Abadi A, Daneshpour M, Zarkesh M. The modifying effects of fish oil on fasting ghrelin mRNA expression in weaned rats. Gene. 2012 Jul 25.
  • Shahram S, Elham Y, Heshmatolah P, Abdolali Baneifar. The effect of intermittent aerobic exercise on serum leptin and insulin resistance index in overweight female students.Annals of Biological Research, 2012, 3 (6):2636-2641